A coroner's report confirms a teenager whose death caused scrutiny of the province's practice of placing at-risk foster children in hotels deliberately jumped from a hotel window, but his family is still looking for answers.
The BC Coroners Service released its report into the death of Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old who was placed by the Children's Ministry in an Abbotsford Super 8 motel after his group home was closed.
- CBC INVESTIGATES | Review of Alex Gervais's death tainted, family says
- IN DEPTH | Alex Gervais's tragic life defined by missed opportunities
The report by coroner Adele Lambert says Gervais had non-lethal concentrations of cocaine and other drugs in his system before he died after deliberately jumping through a fourth-floor window of the motel in September 2015.
Lambert describes the teenager as "very sensitive and fearful of rejection" and says he threatened to kill himself in January 2013 but a hospital assessment concluded he had "zero risk of suicide."
She says in the weeks before his death, Gervais frequently threatened suicide when arguing with his girlfriend, and the day before he had been using drugs, was angry and distraught and was not sleeping.
Family and government reaction
Gervais' aunt, Line Decarie, told CBC Wednesday that while the coroner's report explains the immediate circumstances surrounding his death, it does not deal with the fundamental reasons for the tragedy.
"The path was clear from the beginning – too many kids in so-called care, not enough case workers, insufficient evaluation of family situations, insufficient support of family, insufficient time and money spent on keeping the child in a loving and safe environment," she said in a written statement.
The B.C. NDP echoed her comments, criticizing the government's treatment of youth in ministry care.
"The system said that Gervais was a zero-percent risk of suicide. After that assessment, he leapt to his death," said John Horgan, leader of the opposition.
But the province said changes have been made to the foster care system since Gervais' death, including tracking the number of kids being placed in hotels.
"It is a terrible situation for young people to find themselves in. Government has a duty and obligation to make sure that we look after those children," said Premier Christy Clark.
Immediately after Gervais' death, the ministry said it housed children in hotels only in extreme circumstances, but in January it issued a report that revealed 117 foster children had been placed in hotels between November 2014 and October 2015.
With files from The Canadian Press, Richard Zussman